3 Tips for Riding a Motorbike in Southeast Asia without a License

  January 27, 2022 travel posts 🕑 4 minutes read

Chiang Mai Thailand.


Look at that sexy beast.


Not a Harley Hog.


But a piglet.


Kelli and I rent motorbikes in places like Chiang Mai, Thailand, Phuket, Thailand and Bali.


Thailand and Bali seem to be best explored via motorbike. Tourists and ex-pats get their grubby paws on motorbikes easily, renting without showing licenses.


I have no idea how stats shake out but can assure you; most renters do not have motorbike licenses in the native land. We do not ride back home, either, most of the time.


This seems like no problem. Until you are pulled over and pay a $15 ticket in Thailand (or find yourself in a potential bribing situation in Bali).


15 smackers is no big deal. But the 5-10 minutes of processing and ticket paying can be annoying. Especially since rental companies offer you bikes without mentioning the license situation.


You are in Southeast Asia, folks. It’s all on you. Meaning you take responsibility for what you do and cannot blame or sue someone else for your own actions.


Refreshing, right? Especially when you grew up in a litigious society known as the good old USA, like I did.


Note; I suggest you get a license in the country where you ride motorbikes. This is called covering my ass. Go to the local police station. Request a motorbike license. Test. Pass with flying colors.


Now that this legal-ease has been covered………


Follow these tips to ride in a SE Asian land sans licence.


Practice Riding Before You Hit the Road (Literally)


Most police officers care less about license-less riders outside of seeing you at a checkpoint.


But it makes sense to avoid drawing unwanted attention to yourself by being a horrible driver.


Spend 30 to 60 minutes practicing your motorbike riding skills on a quiet street if you can. Get a feel for the piglet. Sense the weight under your body.


11 Fundamentals of Successful Blogging


If you rent from a store in a busy tourist area ride about 10-15 KPH on the shoulder until you get home. Or to your hotel or apartment.


Then practice in the parking lot or on a quiet side street. 1 hour does the trick. Get a feel, gain confidence and avoid accidents, or stops from police officers who suspect you have no license because you have no driving skills.


Always Wear Helmets


I get it; you were born to ride free.


I enjoy the feel of wind flowing through my hair when riding for a minute in the village to the water machine.


Riding sans helmet is an attention grabber though; I often see silly farang pulled over here in Thailand who refuse to ride with a helmet.


You’d also need to be brain dead – or will be brain dead, eventually – if you ride sans helmet.


Be safe, my little sweet robbins.


Avoid prying police eyes in the process.


No sense getting ticketed for riding without a helmet and riding without a licence.


Observe Checkpoint Areas and Times


The Old City border road here in Chiang Mai.


The bottom of the hill as you enter the Kata-Karaon region of Phuket.


Police use the same checkpoint areas regularly – and at similar times – as they are creatures of habit.


Riding for a few weeks reveals checkpoint spots to you, and typical checkpoint times.


Avoid these spots. Do not ride at certain times. Avoid tickets.


As a rule, checkpoints are daily affairs. After riding a motorbike for years in Southeast Asia I have never seen an evening checkpoint.


Stay away from highly touristed areas and you will likely never see a checkpoint.


My Story


I recall cruising toward a checkpoint in Bali. 20 police officers awaited. I discovered the polisi immediately after exiting a blind curve.


I smiled, nodded and casually turned around to drive off. Some of the cops smiled and went back to gossiping. Why?


Unfortunately, since corruption seems rampant in Bali, the officers knew an unsuspected, scared tourist would soon pass the checkpoint to pay their bribery tribute or to perhaps pay a ticket price.


I intend to share my honest experiences to give you an idea of what may go down during your travels abroad. I do not judge police who appear to be corrupt. Nor do I judge clear tourists on motorbike who know and play the game of allowing polisi to roll off of their back like water off of a duck’s butt.




On a worldly level, I just published an illegal piece of content.


But riding sans license in places like Bali and Thailand seems largely accepted if you ride confidently, skillfully and responsibly.


Few tourists bother to take the time and energy to test for their license. Why would you waste precious time at the station if you have 3-5 days to enjoy Thailand or Bali?


Follow these tips to scoot around Southeast Asia if you have no time, energy or interest in getting your license.

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